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Crime Of The Century - A Chilling Look At Crime Statistics In The UK


force crime recording systems. Most forces, however, still rely on officers preparing hand-written reports that are then ‘loaded’ by civilian inputers.


• The method of creating crime records is likely to affect the consistency in crime recording achieved by a force. At one extreme, any police officer might be able to assign a crime classification. At the other, this authority is restricted to a small number of personnel in a CMU.


• There are major differences in the time it takes to create crime records. In two of the busy metropolitan forces reviewed, records were typically in place within hours. In two rural forces, they tended to materialise within days.


• In almost all forces crime records are created on a different computer system to the incident record from which they originate. This makes the tracking of outcomes very difficult.


• The practise of conducting ‘telephone investigations’ has become widespread, and in a number of forces a large proportion of crime reports do not receive police attendance. In contrast, one of the forces reviewed requires witness statements to be taken in relation to every recorded crime.


• Forces seem to adopt different judgements regarding the ‘finalising’ of a crime categorisation. In several forces the initial record requires approval by a supervisory officer before it achieves this status.


• Even when crime records are ‘finalised’, most Operational Command Units (OCUs) will when necessary reclassify them up to the point at which they are ‘drawn off’ the crime recording system by force HQ. This is typically done in the first few days of each month.


• HQ Statistics Units within police forces, who are responsible for collating the returns to the Home Office, do retain the authority to reclassify offences – except in one force.


The criteria applied in recording incidents as crimes


• The forces under review largely rely on the Counting Rules to guide officers in the recording of crime. While a number have issued supplementary instructions on the implementation of the Rules, they do not offer any further guidance on whether or not to record an allegation as crime.


• Senior officers consistently take the line that virtually all crime allegations are recorded as crimes as a matter of principle. But the discussion of specific instances indicates that there is a wide ‘grey area’ where it is uncertain if a crime should be recorded.


• Cases where a third party makes the allegation or where there is no willing complainant (a common feature of many assaults) are particularly problematic.


• Forces also report frequent difficulties in deciding how crimes should be classified. While the Home Office guidance is clear – that the offence should match that with which a suspect would be charged – it still seems common to ‘downgrade’ the charge to meet the ACPO/CPS Charging Standards.


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